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How to Speak to Your Child During Play

Do you ever catch yourself saying something silly or nonsensical to your child while you’re playing together? Something that makes you cringe and think “why did I say that?”. It happens to the best of us. But we’re here to help!

Finding the “right” thing to say to your child during play doesn’t have to be daunting! Let’s break it down so that by the end of this post, you’ll feel more confident adding your voice to your child’s play.

First up, think about whether or not you even need to add your voice to your child’s play. Sometimes we find the silence uncomfortable, or worry that by not speaking to our children we are depriving them of valuable language development and oral skills. While play does in fact offer valuable opportunities for language development (we’ll talk about this more!) the adult voice can sometimes add noise rather than enhancing the play taking place.

If you feel that you can add something constructive or further your child’s play, think about describing what the child is doing or has made. Here you want to make sure that your sentence clearly describes what you are seeing, rather than what you THINK you are seeing. For example, Lily is painting on the easel. A descriptive addition to her play might sound like, “I see you’re using lots of red and purple paint.” This descriptive phrase doesn’t try to label what Lily is making, nor does it demand a response from the child thereby distracting her from her work. If she feels like adding to the conversation or describing it herself, this is an opening for her to do so.

Key Points to Remember:

1. Do I need to say anything right now?

2. How can I describe exactly what I see?

3. Am I forcing my child to answer?

4. Will this take my child’s focus away from their play?

Here are some of our favourite phrases you can use to meaningfully contribute to your child’s play:

I notice…

You’re really taking your time.

You’re using ______

You’re trying ________

You’re very proud of your work.

I wonder…

What you’ll do next.

What else you can add.

HOT TIP: A child’s play is not about you, the adult! Use phrases that encourage your child to have pride in their own work rather than seeking approval beyond themselves. This will help them become intrinsically motivated!

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